Having been involved with radio for fifteen years now, I've been fighting a very long and public war with potty language. Which is to say: I've been pained a thousand times over by avoiding (great) songs that contain words which the FCC has deemed inappropriate for virgin ears. Sure, I've bleeped and edited my way through the odd Minor Threat track or Run DMC's "Live at Fun City", but in some cases, the dirty words are really what makes a song memorable, especially if they're delivered with style. Anybody can curse like a truck driver, but it takes an artist to make it sound like poetry.
I was reminded of this phenomenon while recording this week's edition of the podcast, which includes the song "Dragon Lady" by the Geraldine Fibbers. Perhaps the band's most well-known contributor was Nels Cline, but at center stage on this track are the heart-stopping vocals of Carla Bozulich, who recently recorded an amazing solo record called Evangelista. "Dragon Lady" builds to an almost unbearable and anthemic climax, and then right at the apex, Carla belts out a string of cuss-laden lyrics that edge the song into showpiece territory. Hearing is believing, so take a listen and let me know if you !@?#! agree. [Streaming MP3]
The advent of the digital camera is the single greatest motivator for lazy and disorganized people like me to keep online records of people, places, and events. The immediacy is too enticing, and the potential for pissing off acquaintances too great. And let's face it, when you're firing your mouth off, there's no time to be jackin' around at the pharmacy waiting for your film to get developed.
I was the world's worst pre-digital photography enthusiast. I owned a reasonably nice 35mm camera from 1989-1995, but shot only a dozen or so rolls of film on it and then never bothered to get any of the pictures developed. The film cannisters spent years rolling around in my sock drawer and were shuffled in and out of about as many apartments before I was (recently) ordered down to the Duane Reade to have something done about it. This evening, a most pleasing result of this long-overdue endeavor is now presented via this pasty and washed-out scan. (Hey, 10+ years in a sock drawer can take its toll on you).
The shot in question features several members of the WPRB airstaff circa 1994. On the far right is DJ Marc Coleman, host of the Sounds of the Underground program, who is the first (and last) person I ever knew who could ably cue up records with his bare toes (while beat juggling, mind you). In front of him (seated, in baseball cap) is Josh, who at the time was a member of the swoony indie rock combo Totfinder, and who went on to be a member of the hugely popular French Kicks. The guy sitting on the arm of the chair is named Said [pronounced Sah-yeed], and although he didn't host a program, he definitely provided some kind of demented, spiritual guidance to our small group of radio junkies. He was one of the best and funniest storytellers I've ever met -- the kind of guy who didn't need a radio station to broadcast his opinions because he always managed to collect an audience just by walking into a room. Finally, we have the esteemed Hugh Hynes (seated, arms crossed), who was the final host of WPRB's Totally Wired program and whom foisted a truly dizzying mix of British imports on the station's Delaware Valley listenership. Were it not for this man, Catherine Wheel's amazing cover of Scott Walker's "30th Century Man" would've forever remained a mystery to me. This photo was taken in DJ Jen Moyse's (Hey You Kids Get Off My Lawn co-host) room at the Terrace Club, which was a frequent gathering place for late-night arguments about which new records sucked or ruled the most. (Naturally, most of them ruled). A year after this picture was taken, the room was painted metallic silver from ceiling to floor by the next resident -- perhaps one of the most ill-advised decorating decisions in Mercer county history.
Catherine Wheel - 30th Century Man [Real Audio] Treepeople - Funnelhead[Real Audio] (Note Treepeople poster in background, above LP shelves).
Since Read:My:Back went online earlier this week, several people have emailed me asking where the blog's name came from, and I now realize how silly it was to not step up with those details right away. "Read my Back" is the title of a song by the brilliant 1980s DC rock band Kingface, whom I wrote a lengthy bio of back in 2005. You can read the article and also download a full arsenal of the band's mind-blowing MP3s with this link. Alternately, you can skip the wordage and just rock out at your computer to a live version of "Read my Back". [Download MP3]
The trauma and humiliations of moving are slowly retreating, and we helped hasten their departure this
weekend by spending a day at Coney Island. In a remarkable and mildly upsetting display of time having its way with me, the requisite ride on the Cyclone hurt my back so badly, I wound up hobbling around like some kind of old guy for the next two days.
In spite of the associated embarrassment of being injured by an amusement park ride, I still espouse the commonly held opinion that the Cyclone is the most terrifying roller coaster in the world. Not because of its design, but because waiting on line to board it will reward you with visible wood flecks in your hair -- the result of the entire structure decaying just above you. I've heard tell of a ritual which involves Cyclone employees scaling the structure every morning during the high season to hammer back loose nails and secure rotting wood. Awesome.
The Wonder Wheel is less arresting, at least in terms of heart attack potential, but offers peerless views of the park and surrounding environs. Unfortunately, the re-development that's blindsided the whole area has definitely begun to take its toll on the raucous reputation that Coney Island has boasted for so many years, most noticeably through the sheer lack of New Yorkers who bothered to brave the daunting subway ride. Five years ago, a mid-August day as perfect as this would've meant a packed F Train from 14th Street onward, but we rode in relative solitude all the way out to Stillwell Avenue.
And you can read the details in a million other places besides this blog. However, I can offer a musical tribute in the form of this radio show, which began with about twenty minutes' worth of selections from Lee's considerable body of work.
I'm certainly no svengali when it comes to discussing the man's life or back catalog, but many of his songs expressed the kind of poignancy that most artists trip clumsily down the stairs on, and for that he deserves a generous splash of beer on the curb.